Probation and Parole
Parole: early release of prisoners.
States Turn to Diversion, Probation, and Parole
Prisons are expensive. Many states are finding that the costs to run prisons is competing with other
budgetary needs such as roads, education and infrastructure. With an increase in state prison population of
500 percent since the 1970’s, most state budgets can’t keep up with the ever increasing costs. Many states
are looking for ways to reduce spending in the prison system. Since about half of all convicted offenders are
nonviolent, nonsexual offenders, many states are turning to probation and parole as alternatives to
Diversion and Probation
Diversion A defendant is offered an alternative to criminal trial and a prison sentence, such as drug courts,
boot camps, and treatment programs.
Probation – the conditional release of a convicted offender prior to his or her serving any prison time. Also
called a suspended sentence.
Probation – a convicted offender must serve their full sentence if they violate terms of their release.
Mandatory Release and Good Time Release
Mandatory Release – the release of prisoners required by law after they have served the entire length of
their maximum sentence
GoodTime Credit – a strategy of crediting inmates with extra days served toward early release in an effort
to encourage them to obey rules and participate in prison programs
Pardon and Commutation of Sentence
Executive Pardon – an act by a governor or the president that forgives a prisoner and rescinds his or her
Commutation of Sentence – a reduction in the severity or length of an inmate’s sentence issued by a state
governor or the president of the United States.
There are no limitations on the number of pardons that a governor may grant.
1841 – John Augustus
1878 – Massachusetts passed the first probation statute
1900 – Four states had similar statutes
1920 – Every state permitted juvenile probation and 33 had adult system. Augustus was a wealthy Boston shoe maker who devoted himself to bringing reform to the criminal justice
system of the 18 century. He was critical of the conditions of the jails and was concerned that for many
offenders, being sentenced to jail would cause more harm that good. In 1841 he developed what is known
today as probation. He was in court when a defendant was convicted of being a common drunk. Augustus
asked the judge to release the man to him rather than sentence him to jail. Augustus assumed
responsibility for the mans behavior and provided for his rehabilitation. After 3 weeks he brought the man
back to court for evaluation. The judge liked what he saw in the outcome of the experiment. After that,
Augustus monitored trials and had more than 2,000 defendants assigned to him. By 1878 Massachusetts
passed the first probation statute in the country. By 1900, four other states passed similar legislation. By
1920, every state permitted juvenile probation and 33 had adopted a system of adult probation. Today, more
people are on probation and parole than are sentenced to prison.
Conditions of Probation (did not spend any time in jail)
Tend to be fixed by state statute, while special conditions are mandated by the sentencing authority and
take into consideration the background of the offender and the circumstances surrounding the offense.
Alice Meyer was convicted of her second DUI. The judge sentenced her to probation. She had to abide by
the general conditions of probation in that jurisdiction, including meeting with her probation officers once a
month, obeying all laws and maintaining employment. The judge added to specific conditions. First, she
was required to attend Alcoholic Anonymous meetings once per week. Second, she had to attend a victim
impact panel. At these panels offenders listen to survivors of drunk driving accidents and talk about the
harm caused my the crime.
Obey all laws
Possess no firearms
Victim impact panels
Decisions to Grant Probation
When sentencing offenders to probation or suspended sentences judges assume
–Prison is inappropriate
–The public is not in serious risk
–The offender would not benefit from prison
–The offender would be selfsupporting
–The offender is not mentally ill –The offender will not commit other crimes
Probation is a sentencing option of judges. The judge relies on the extent of the presentence investigation
report to make a judgment about the appropriateness of probation.
The Office of Probation and Pretrial Services provides federal judges with presentence reports.
Presentence Investigation Report
A narrative of the circumstances of the offense.
The defendant’s criminal history
A description of the defendant’s lifestyle including
Family to support
Advantages of Probation
Costs $1000 a year
General conditions of pr